S.E. Ruckman: A remarkable day with arrival of Cobell checks

Indian beneficiaries in Oklahoma demand release of Cobell settlement funds at this protest last year. Photo from Katherine Ware-Perosi / Change.Org

S.E. Ruckman reflects on the arrival of the final checks from the $3.4 billion Cobell trust fund settlement:
One of my relatives had texted me that she got her Cobell check on the same day the Scots were voting to secede from the United Kingdom. Now, for anyone who has been in the upper atmosphere on a space station the past four years, final payments went out on a class action lawsuit brought against the federal government for fiduciary negligence on past Native royalty payments. All set in motion by a Blackfoot woman who had the tenacity of a pit bull.

Sure enough, white envelopes began to hit the mailboxes state-side. Nearly everyone who I talked to commented that the envelopes were not the traditional brown-gold paper favored by the U.S. Department of Treasury. A small detail, to be sure, but telling.

I remembered interviewing Elouise Cobell several years ago before she died in 2011 following a battle with cancer. I remember the shock when I heard the news of her passing. I thought of her as bigger than life, this monolith who wrestled the federal government to a rude truce. As a rule, I do not believe in coincidences anymore but the enormity of the fight and the resulting indignation must have eaten away at her.

During the actual trial (Cobell vs. Salazar), I read through the court transcripts. It was tragically comic in an epic and poignant way. The years of fiscal abuse Individual Indian Money (IIM) account holders endured (unwittingly) were legion. The scope of it had put the original settlement sum at about $10 billion. But it was whittled down to $3.4 billion. For whatever reason, I maintain that somehow the federal government just could not put ownership on a misdeed so large that it defied logical description.

Get the Story:
S.E. RUCKMAN: Pennies From Heaven in White Envelopes (The Native American Times 9/19)

Related Stories:
Cobell settlement checks being cashed across Indian Country (9/19)
Cobell settlement checks landing in Indian Country mailboxes (9/18)
Sen. Walsh welcomes arrival of last Cobell settlement payout (9/18)
Checks from final payment of Cobell settlement put in the mail (9/16)
Jay Daniels: Still waiting on that final Cobell settlement payment (9/15)
Sen. Tester applauds approval of final Cobell settlement payout (9/12)
Judge approves motion to distribute Cobell settlement payment (9/11)
Native Sun News: Final Cobell payment might 'almost' be ready (9/11)
Final payments from Cobell settlement closer to being distributed (09/04)
Tim Giago: Greedy lawyers and government ruin Cobell settlement (08/27)

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